God made you so that you could participate in the overflowing love and life found within the Godhead. You were created to love and be loved and to share his divine life in spiritual union.
Manmade religion says you have to work hard before you can draw near to God and if you sin he will cast you aside, but the gospel of grace declares that one with the Lord, you are as holy and righteous as he is and your future is eternally secure. Our union with the Lord is intimate, unbreakable and the means by which we experience the abundant life that flows from the fullness of his love.
Union in the Bible
The word union does not appear in many English Bibles, but our union with the Lord is mentioned hundreds of times in scripture. It is found in the phrases like “God with us,” “Christ in you,” “in Christ,” “with Christ,” “with him,” and “in him” (see entry for Matt. 1:23). It’s in numerous promises (“I am with you always”) and word pictures (“I am the vine, you are the branches”). And union is implied in the word fellowship.
The word that is usually translated as fellowship (koinonia, 2842) literally means partnership, community (or common unity) or communion (or common union). Koinonia is not a verb in the sense of having fellowship after church. It is a noun that describes the common union believers have with each other and the Lord.
Union is more than relationship for it describes the mystical connection that all believers share with God the Father (Eph. 2:18, 1 John 1:2-3, 2:15), God the Son (1 Cor. 1:9, 10:16), and God the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14, Php. 2:1, 1 John 4:13). Our union also joins us to the church or the body of Christ (1 John 1:7). Koinonia-fellowship is about living fully out of our connection with Christ and his body with our hearts “knit together in love” (Col. 2:2).
Pictures of union
Spiritual union is such an alien concept to the natural mind that the Bible provides us with pictures to help us grasp it. In the New Testament, our union with the Lord is portrayed as a vine and its branches (John 15:5), a building or temple (see entry for 2 Cor. 6:16), a treasure in a jar of clay (2 Cor. 4:7), a new man (Eph. 2:15), a marriage (2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:24-25, Rev. 19:7, 21:9, 22:17), a city (Heb. 11:10, 12:22, 13:14, Rev 3:12, 21:2), and a family or household (Matt. 12:50, Mark 3:35, John 11:52, 2 Cor. 6:18, Eph. 2:19, Gal. 3:26, 6:10, 1 Pet. 4:17). The union metaphor which appears most often in the New Testament is that of the body of Christ of which every believer is a member (see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27; see also Rom. 12:4, 5, 1 Cor. 6:15, 10:17, 12:12-18, 22-25 , Eph. 3:6, 4:4, 4:15-16, 5:23, 30, Col 1:18, 2:19, 3:15).
One thing these pictures have in common is the theme of total dependence. A branch is nothing without the vine, and a toe cannot exist without the body. Our union reminds us that we are totally dependent on the Lord. He is the source of our life (Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:5, Col. 3:4). Apart from him we can do nothing, but in him we truly live and move and have our being.
Words of union
Several phrases in scripture refer to our union with the Lord. These include; in Christ Jesus, with Christ, with him, and in him.
In Christ Jesus: We are alive to God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11, 23). The grace and kindness of God are found in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 2:7) and his forgiveness is found in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), we are justified in Christ (Gal. 2:17), and our salvation is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10). Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). We have freedom and are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 2:4). We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). The peace, faith and love of God are found in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:14). In Christ we are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We are complete in Christ (Col. 1:28) and blessed with every blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). All the glory goes to God. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30).
With Christ: The believer has been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:8, Gal. 2:20, Col. 2:20, 3:3), been raised and made alive with Christ (Rom. 6:8, Eph. 2:5, Col. 3:1), is a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27), and hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
With him: The believer has been crucified with him, buried with him, raised with him in order to live with him and reign with him (Rom. 6:4-8, 2 Cor. 13:4, Eph. 2:6, Col. 2:12-13, 2 Tim. 2:11-12).
In him: When you believed the good news about Jesus, you were sealed in him (Eph. 1:13). All the blessings of heaven are found in him (Eph. 1:3), and in him we have redemption, forgiveness, and righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 1:7). All the promises of God are yes in him (2 Cor. 1:20), and in him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
The promise of union
Jesus prayed for his disciples “that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). Then he prayed for those who would come after them, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). Jesus’ prayer is answered whenever someone turns to the Lord in faith and is sealed in him by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Once upon a time, you were apart from the Lord and lacking the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:9, 1 Cor. 2:14-15). But the moment you responded in faith to the gospel, you were placed in Christ and you received the Holy Spirit. “God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30, GNB).
The believer has been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:8, Gal. 2:20, Col. 2:20, 3:3, 2 Tim. 2:11), raised and made alive with Christ (Rom. 6:8, Eph. 2:5, Col. 3:1), is a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), is clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27), and now reigns with Christ (Eph. 2:6, 2 Tim. 2:12). Truly the believer is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
There are no stages to union with Christ; you are either in Christ or you need to be. The Christian life is not about trying to get closer to the Lord, but learning to walk in the union we already have. “As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to him” (Col. 2:6, AMP). We are able to walk with the Lord when we know our union is intimate, unbreakable, and blessed.
An intimate union
Union with Christ is the number one reason why we have it better than those who lived before the cross. Back then they wrote love songs about yearning and absence. “I opened to my beloved, but my beloved was gone” (Song 5:6) “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps. 27:4). But the good news of union declares that you are the house of the Lord (2 Cor. 6:16, Heb. 3:6). You can dwell in the house of the Lord as long as you like. In fact, it’s going to be quite impossible for you to dwell anywhere else.
“I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). You are in Christ and he is in you. One with the Lord, you are as close as you ever will be. If you don’t feel close, renew your mind and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of God’s word to you. Intimacy is not something we ever need long for. (He is already with us.) We don’t have to beg God to rend the heavens and come down. (He already did.) And we never have to fear that he might abandon us as orphans. (He promised he wouldn’t.) The good news declares that now and forever more, you are in intimate union with the Lord (Eph. 2:13).
An unbreakable union
“Surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). Jesus said the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit abide or make their home with us (John 14:16–17, 23). You are not a motel room for the Lord. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he will never leave you (Heb. 13:5).
“The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Cor. 6:17). The original word for joins (kollao, G2853) means to glue or cement together. You have been cemented to the Lord by the Holy Spirit. You are stuck with him for good.
“We have become united with him” (Rom. 6:5). The original word for united (sumphutos, 4854) means planted together. This is just about the strongest word for union you could possibly think of. It means being “born together with” or “of joint origin.” The closest English word is connate which means individual parts that are united to form a single whole. The best illustration of a connate union is the one Jesus gave us—a vine and a branch, two parts that combine to make an indivisible whole. Vines and branches cannot be understood in isolation. A vine that has no branches is not much of a vine, and a branch that is not part of a vine is not a branch.
What does this connate or unbreakable union mean for us? One with the Lord, we are as holy and righteous as he is (1 Cor. 1:30). His future is our future and in him we are eternally secure. Since Christ cannot deny or disown himself, Christ cannot disown you (2 Tim. 2:13).
A blessed union
Paul prayed that we would have “a deeper understanding of every blessing which we have in our life in union with Christ” (Phm. 1:6, GNB). There are many blessings which come to us through our union in Christ. These blessings include: love (Rom. 8:39, 1 Tim. 1:14, 1 John 3:17), forgiveness (Eph. 1:7, 4:32), reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), salvation (Eph. 1:13, 2 Tim. 2:10), the gift of no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), freedom (Gal. 2:4), eternal life (Rom. 6:23, 2 Tim: 1:1, 1 John 3:15, 5:20), peace (Php. 4:7), sanctification (1 Cor. 1:2, 30, Php. 1:1, 4:21, 2 Tim. 1:9), righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21, Php. 3:9), authority (Eph. 2:6), new life (Eph. 2:5), an inheritance (Eph. 1:10-11), strength (Eph. 6:10), and provision (Php. 4:19. Indeed, every blessing is ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3). In him we are complete (Col. 2:10). Truly we are “privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God” (1 Cor. 3:23, MSG).
C.S. Lewis once said that grace separates Christianity from every other religion. The grace of God is certainly special, but it is hardly the only thing that makes Christianity unique. How about union? No other religion dares to propose the intimacy, fruitfulness, and security that flow from our union with the Lord. “In union with Christ you have become rich in all things…” (1 Cor. 1:5, GNB).
Back to Glossary
Back to Commentary
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this specific page, please use the comment form below.
- Children of God
- City of Man
- Eternal Rewards
- Eternal Security
- Flesh, The
- Gospel, The
- Grace of God
- Heavenly Treasure
- Judgment Day
- Law, The
- Love of God
- Mysteries of God
- New Life
- Sinful nature
- Spirit and soul
- Virgin birth
- Word of God
- Wrath of God